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Fried Pork Sandwiches

Time 20 minutes
Yields Serves 2
Chunks of roast pork are fried, then layered with pickled onions and plantains in this hearty sandwich.
Chunks of roast pork are fried, then layered with pickled onions and maduros (plantains) in this hearty sandwich inspired by one served at Tina’s Cuban Cuisine in Manhattan.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
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This is my take on the “fried pork sandwich” served at Tina’s Cuban Cuisine in New York. It’s one of the best ways to utilize leftover roasted pork shoulder. Chunks of leftover meat are pan-fried and then topped with Peruvian pickled onions known as salsa criolla and maduros, which are fried sweet plantains. For the bread, use the standard 7- to 8-inch-long rolls for Cuban sandwiches: tubular like a French baguette, but without pointed ends. They are of the soft white-bread texture, so no artisanal sourdoughs here, please. In a pinch you could use a Kaiser roll, banh mi roll or other feathery white bread bun.

Starting the pork in cold oil may seem strange, but take it from my experience: Adding pieces of cold pork with cold fat to hot oil will cause violent pops from the meat’s moisture releasing. No sandwich is worth burning your arm in hot oil splatters. Heating the pork with the oil allows it to fry and become crisp with no need for protective gear.

1

Pour the oil into a large skillet and then place the pork chunks in a single layer in the cold oil. Heat over medium-high heat until the pork pieces start bubbling vigorously at the edges, then continue frying, flipping once halfway through, until crisp and well-caramelized on the outside and warmed through inside, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and transfer the pork to paper towels to drain; pour off the oil but do not wipe the skillet clean, leaving whatever oil stays behind in the pan.

If you made maduros from scratch, save the oil to fry the pork here. If your maduros are cold from the fridge, add them to the hot oil in the skillet as soon as you remove the pork and warm them for about 1 minute. Remove from the oil and let them drain alongside the pork before pouring off the oil and continuing with the recipe as written.
2

Split the sandwich rolls to separate the tops and bottoms and spread each cut side with mayonnaise. Divide the pork between the bottom halves of the rolls and use tongs, a fork or your fingers to lightly smash the pork onto the bread, spreading it in an even layer. Top the pork with some salsa criolla, followed by a layer of maduros. Sandwich with the roll tops and use your hand to gently press and compact the fillings.

3

Return the skillet to medium heat and add the sandwiches, top side-down. Use a metal spatula to press the sandwiches until they’re golden brown, flipping once, 1 to 2 minutes per side.

4

Transfer each sandwich to a sheet of parchment paper or foil, then quickly and tightly wrap it up. Cut in half crosswise and serve with Tina’s Green Sauce for drizzling over each bite.

Salsa Criolla (Peruvian Pickled Onions and Peppers)

1

Place the onion in a medium bowl, toss with the salt then cover with cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. Drain the onion, leaving them in the bowl.

2

Add the lime juice, vinegar, cilantro and chile to the onion, season with salt and toss to combine. Let stand at room temperature for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Maduros (Fried Sweet Plantains)

1

Pour the oil into a large skillet and then place an end piece of plantain in the oil. Heat over medium-high heat until the plantain in the skillet starts to bubble vigorously and fry. Add the rest of the plantain pieces to the oil in a single layer and cook, flipping once halfway through, until lightly browned at the edges, about 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking, flipping once halfway through, until very soft and darkly caramelized, 6 to 8 minutes more.

You must wait until your plantains are fully black on the outside before you cook them to ensure they’re no longer starchy and are sweet enough to caramelize on the outside.
2

Transfer the maduros to paper towels to drain, then season with salt while they’re still wet with oil. Let drain for 1 minute, then transfer to a plate to cool completely; if you let them cool completely on the paper towels, they might stick.

If making Fried Pork Sandwiches, let the oil from cooking the maduros cool completely then save it in an airtight container for frying the pork.

Tina's Green Sauce

1

In a blender or food processor, combine the jalapeños and garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Season liberally with salt then pour over the lime juice. Puree until as smooth as possible, scraping the bowl as needed, then let stand for 5 minutes.

2

Add the cilantro and avocado. With the machine running, pour in the olive oil and 2 tablespoons cold water until the sauce is smooth and pourable. Season with more salt, if needed, then pour into a bowl to serve.